Consanguinity: (kŏn'săng-gwĭn'ĭtē) , relationship by blood, whether linear or collateral.

Primarily concentrating on my Browning family from Harrison County, Ohio (and their subsequent move to Crawford County, Illinois) but I've got Plymell, Crago, Eagleton, Garrard, McConnell, Nichols, Swan, Nevitt, Huls, Markee, Depperman, Papstein/Popstein and Hamilton in there too. And that's just the beginning......

Friday, July 2, 2010

How To Reconstruct a Family pt. 2 -- Play Detective!

And now for the second installment. I ended the first on a question: What to do next?

Well, I'd researched Amanda as much as I could from 1870-1930 and felt I had a pretty good idea of her life and movements. It was back to the census, armed with a little more knowledge. I decided to pick it up in 1900, the first census that was available after the 1880 when Amanda had been living in Jefferson Co., IL with her children with George Browning, John W. and Ella May.

I searched John W. first since he carried the Browning surname. With a name like John it was still going to be tough so I figured I'd first narrow it to John W. and rule those out first, it'd be easier. I searched with the parameters of his name, his possible birthday (c1874 +/- 1 yr) and birthplace (IL). A few hits came up and I just started going down the list, picking the few that seemed closest to Jefferson Co. first. One was in Franklin County and another in Edgar County but I ruled them both out pretty quickly by comparing birth places and other family living close. Another was in White County and looked promising but his mother was listed as born in Indiana. I kept him in my mind and moved on to the first one on the list that wasn't in Illinois -- John W. and Lydia A. Browning, who lived in St. James, Mississippi Co., MO.

I looked on the map and saw that Mississippi Co. bordered Alexander Co., IL and was separated from it by the Mississippi river. It was only a few counties away from Jefferson County. Hm. John W. was b. Sept 1874 in IL, both his parents had been born in IL, he and Lydia had been married four years, Lydia was born in Aug 1876 in KY, and the couple had two sons, William B. b. Oct 1896 and Jesse R. b. Nov 1899, both born in MO.

This sounded interesting! But I knew that I needed more information to rule the family in or out. I noticed that William was born in 1896 and would've had to register for the WW1 draft if he'd lived that long. I went to Ancestry, searched the WW1 Draft Registration database for a William B. born 1896 in MO (using exact search on the birthdate) and got a hit for William Bennet Browning. I got really excited reading through it! Dated 5 Jun 1918, it stated that he was born 5 Oct 1896 in East Prairie, Mississippi Co. MO. His father was born in Mt. Vernon, IL and the relative he listed was Lydia Browning who was living in Medina, Madison Co., TN.

Mount Vernon! That's in Jefferson County! That told me that the John W. Browning who'd been in the 1900 census was William's father AND it told me he'd been born in Jefferson Co., IL. The date AND the place matched the John W., son of George Browning and Amanda Raney! Whooo! I had a gut feeling that this was the right family so I began to do a bit more in-depth research on them.

I returned to the census records from 1910-1930 and reconstructed the family's movements:

3 May 1910 Wolf Island, Mississippi Co MO, ED 104, Sh 1A, image 1, HH 2, line 7
McDADE, J.B. age 46 c1865, m. 4 yrs, b. TN, fb IRE, mb, TN
McDADE, S. C. age 45 c1866, m. 4 yrs., b. MO, fb AL, mb TN
BROWNING, Liddy (sister) age 32 c1878, widowed 3 ch, 3 liv, b. KY, fb IRE, mb TN
BROWNING, Bennett (son) age 13 c1897, b. MO, fb IL, mb, KY
BROWNING, Roy age 11 c1899
BROWNING, Lee age 2 c1908
POLESTON?, D.N.(or G. N?), father in law, age 76, wid, b. AL, pb AL

1920 Wolf Island, Mississippi Co, MO; ED 116, Sh 8A, HH 143, line 6, Image 1105
BROWNING, Lydia age 44 b. KY, fb KY, mb TN
BROWNING, Bennie age 23 b.MO fb IL, mb KY
BROWNING, Ray age 19 b.MO fb IL, mb KY clerking at store
BROWNING, Lee age 18 b.MO fb IL, mb KY

Ah, the 1910 census shows Lydia living with her brother J.B. McDade so I used that last name and did a search in both available Missouri marriages databases on Ancestry. The first (Missouri Marriage Records, 1805-2002) wasn't at all helpful but the second (Missouri Marriages, 1851-1900) was! I located her marriage to John:

John W Browning m. Lydia A. McDade in Mississippi Co., MO on 16 Oct 1895

I went to go perform one last census search. I remembered that Lydia had mentioned her parents had come from Tennessee and I noticed that she and her son William were there in 1918 when he registered for the draft. I thought I needed to go look for McDade families in the state. I found the right family in the 1880 Madison Co TN census in the 16th Dist. Liddie A., aged 2, was living with her sisters and brothers: Margaret age 21, John L. age 19, William age 18, Jesse aged 15, Susan age 12, and Bennett J. age 7. Bennett and Liddie were born in KY and the rest were born in TN. I felt it very likely that this was the correct family. Liddie had named two of her sons Jesse and William Bennett.

I now had quite of bit of information on the family. John W. and Lydia A. McDade had married in 1895 and lived in Mississippi Co., MO from Oct 1895 until June 1900. They had three sons (William Bennett, Jessie Ray/Roy, and Lee) from 1896-1902 and somewhere between 1902-1910 John W. died and Lydia moved in with her brother and sister-in-law. Lydia and her son William were apparently living in Madison Co., TN in 1918 but they were back in Mississippi Co., MO by 1920. I couldn't seem to find Lydia or her sons William or Jesse in 1930 but I did find Lee. He was married and still living in Mississippi Co.

So what next? I'd pretty much covered marriages and the census. Ah, ha! The next link in the earthly chain.....death records!

I went to Family Search Beta and did a search in the Missouri Deaths and Burials, 1867-1976 collection for John with no results. Since John's death was early and likely not recorded, I then decided to try all Browning names. Only 11 appeared, none of whom matched.

All right, hm.....well, William had mentioned Tennessee. I decided to try the family names in the Tennessee Deaths and Burials, 1874-1955 collection. I tried Lydia first and got a hit! Lydia died in Medina, Gibson Co., TN, on 28 Nov 1942 at age 66. She was born in 1876 and was listed as married. Her spouse's name was John Wylie Browning. Her parents were listed as Bennett Mcdaid and Susie Davidson.

I tried William with no results, then tried Jesse and got another hit. Jesse Ray Browning died on 5 Feb 1922 and was buried on 6 Feb 1922. He died in Medina, Madison County, Tennessee at age 21. He was born 28 Nov 1900 in MO and was single. His father's Name was Wiley Browning, born IL, and his mother's name was Liddia Mcdade, born in KY.

These two records told me John's middle name -- Wiley -- and the death dates of his wife and son. I turned to the SS Death Index at Rootsweb and found William Bennett Browning. He'd died on 17 Nov 1966 in Humboldt in Gibson County, Tennessee. I took a quick trip back to the USGenWeb site for Tennessee counties and a search in Gibson County for his name in the cemetery listings gave me the following: William B. Browning, d. 17 Nov 1966, married Mealie M., b. 28 Oct 1908- 3 Feb 1998. Both were buried in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Humboldt, Gibson Co., TN. Lastly, I hopped over to Find-A-Grave to look for William's headstone and got lucky again! Some kind soul had taken a picture of William's stone.

Now for a synopsis.

Do I know for sure yet that the John Wylie Browning who married Lydia McDade is the son of George Browning and Amanda Ann Raney? Nope. The circumstantial evidence is pretty good though. I'd have to locate a few different sorts of documents for solid proof. Amanda's will, if she had one, might mention him or his children. And what of John's own death records? If he died c1904-1910 there might be some sort of death record (though it's doubtful it lists parents) but one never knows. He might've had a will that mentioned his parentage. Perhaps there is a funeral record? It appears that writing to Mississippi Co., MO to get what record there are is my next step to solid proof.

Sometimes, though, circumstantial evidence is all you'll have to go on. Build as strong a case as you can for it if that's what you're using. Pay attention to the smallest of hints, such as where a draft registration was processed. Think about the families that cohabited or collaterally touched yours to find leads. Trace each person back to the earliest census you can find them in for clues like who their relatives were because those people, and their movements, might impact your relatives. While I know I'm stating the obvious for most of us genealogists, for the beginners......well, it's just the stuff like this that you miss.

The moral of this story -- think outside the box!


  1. Hi Patti,
    Thanks for sharing your story. I think it's important to share examples of our genealogy quests, especially when it involves circumstantial and/or more relevant sources to go by.

    What I would do to show cause for John being a son of George is to make sure I can't place John in any other similar family during that time period and location.

    Good luck and I look forward to hearing more about this puzzle!

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